The SaratogaArtsFest executive director is the chief spokesperson for the organization and is responsible for overseeing management, festival programming, marketing, and year round promotions of the arts in the Saratoga Springs region.
Laura Herr was kind enough to sit down and answer my questions regarding her new role; her move from a small Connecticut town; and what she loves about Saratoga Springs NY!
1. You are coming to us from Kent, Connecticut, a city that like Saratoga Springs, is a very artistic community. Can you tell us, besides your new role, what lured you to Saratoga Springs?
My husband and I were attracted to Saratoga Springs because of the numerous activities available to the community. While Kent, Connecticut is a very artistic town, the ability to provide community activities is simply hampered by its small size; there is a demand but the town is a fraction of the size of Saratoga Springs. In the end, Saratoga fits our family very well. Cultural offerings abound in Saratoga. The need to allow our children to explore the world through art is very important to us.
2. What made you interested in the role of the new Executive Director of the SaratogaArtsFest?
I was intrigued by the growth of SAF in such a short period of time. And to be more specific, it wasn’t just the fact that SAF had grown but that it had grown so rapidly. The economy has put a damper on the life of many businesses, and in particular 501(c)(3)s. The fact that SAF’s growth has catapulted over the last few years was a sign to me that this was a solid organization. In addition, I was excited about continuing to work with an organization that promotes the arts and arts organizations. I’m very passionate about the importance of keeping art in the lives of our community, and in particular, our community children. Studies have confirmed the positive impact that art has on the way we view the world, the way we learn and on the way in which we process information.
3. Can you tell us about your varied education and background?
My father is an internist and worked with the military for his entire career. As a fighter pilot with the Air Force, and later as a physician with the U.S. Coast Guard, my family traveled often as is true of any military family. By the time I ended high school, I had moved nine times. This kind of life makes you adaptable to new situations. But despite all of the moving, I felt that Michigan was closest to what I would call “home.” Both of my parents have family there and we were additionally assigned to Traverse City, Michigan for part of my middle and high school years. It was an easy choice to go to University of Michigan in Ann Arbor for my undergraduate degrees. While in college, I was drawn to studies in human nature and human culture while also enjoying philosophy and the law. I gravitated towards pursuing my law degree by the end of my senior year at U of M and attended law school in Washington D.C. at Washington College of Law. Being in the district while studying the law was an amazing experience.
4. With your experience in law and promotion of the Arts, do you find that your diverse experiences complement each other, or have you given up law in the pursuit of encouragement of the Arts?
There is no question that going to law school teaches you how to think in an analytical way. I have carried the skills of rational and analytical thinking with me and apply them in everyday life and work. I think it makes me more objective and better able to resolve problems – whether they are work related or not. At this point in my life, trying to pursue practicing the law is simply not in my deck of cards. I will however continue to offer my services through programs like Project Salute as I can think of no better way to give use my legal skills in a beneficial way. At my core, however, is simply the desire to better the community and the promotion and support of the arts is a sure way to advance communities and the people living in them. When I served on a local arts board in Kent, Connecticut I was able to see the impact arts education has on children and the way they think. I felt a sense of pride in helping to bring arts education to children and the community and I’m thrilled to be able to continue doing that in Saratoga Springs.
5. Are you artistic and do you favor a particular art?
I have always enjoyed writing above all other art forms I have tried. Writing is one of my strengths and I’ve always loved writing stories and poetry. I’ve continued to write throughout the years and don’t see this disappearing from my life. It’s a real outlet for me. Additionally, I have always loved drawing. My son and I sketch together quite often. It’s something the two of us can share as an activity we both equally enjoy.
6. Do you feel as though you have big shoes to fill?
Mary Ellen is certainly a force. As I’ve been working with SAF’s transition team over the past several weeks, I have continued to hear that under Mary Ellen’s leadership SAF has really soared. She has fostered a great deal of admiration from her colleagues and has laid the groundwork in community relations for SAF. Because of her work, I’m confident I will be able to join SAF and help to lead the organization into its next phase of growth.
7. What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?
Perhaps it sounds cliché, but I read and write a great deal. Additionally, we have an extremely active family and we spend a lot of our time outdoors playing a variety of sports. I’ll even have my children, ages 5 and 8, join me on their bikes when I go for long runs; however, it’s now the case that I struggle to keep up with them and this certainly wasn’t always the case!
8. SaratogaArtsFest is such an enjoyable jubilee of the Arts, displaying talents in visual art, literary art, music, dance, and theatre. Have you already started thinking about SaratogaArtsFest 2014?
Absolutely! I’m excited to already be considering opportunities for upcoming celebrations. That’s one of the wonderful things about the arts – there’s always something new. I find that to be incredibly inspiring as it reminds me that creativity and exploration are a great part of who we all are. The drive to continue developing new ways in which to express ourselves only benefits all of us.
9. Will you be attending this year’s SaratogaArtsFest, June 6-9, 2013?
10. Is there anything else you would like to tell Saratoga.com visitors about yourself or your new post as Executive Director of SaratogaArtsFest?
In my new post, it will be my goal to continue the city’s growth as a premier arts destination by continuing the promotion of the arts on a year-round basis and by offering the community an annual celebration of the arts. Support of SaratogaArtsFest by the community and by those visiting only strengthens the offerings SAF can provide. Thank you to everyone who has continued to support SAF; your attendance at SaratogaArtsFest and your support through donations keeps us moving towards our greater mission to better the community!
Visit www.SaratogaArtsFest.com for the complete rundown on SaratogaArtsFest 2013, June 6-9, and witness Saratoga Springs become an enormous showcase of the arts with activities spanning music, dance, visual art, theatre, film, and literary art. The line-up includes legendary performer Ben Vereen, Cuban jazz superstars Tiempo Libre with pianist Alfredo Rodríguez, the Beekman Street Art Fair, and much, much more!
Get Your ARTSPASS admission package online at SaratogaArtsFest.com!